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What is the origin of the word 'paella'?

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Question: What is the origin of the word 'paella'?
Answer: The origin of paella is disputed, as are so many old traditions in Spain (see the dispute over the origin of tapas for more controversy!). There are two main theories of where the word 'paella' comes from and a third one that is just a little bit silly.

  1. Paella comes from the Latin 'patella' The Latin word 'patella' means 'pan' and it is from this word that the Valencian word 'paella', which also means 'pan', is derived.
  2. Paella comes from the Arabic 'baqiyah' Baqiyah (sometimes spelt 'baqiya') is Arabic for 'leftovers'. It is said that paella was originally a poor man's dish and was a way of using up leftovers from the previous week.
  3. Paella comes from the Spanish 'por ella' The Spanish 'por ella' means 'for her' and is said to come from the fact that the first paella was made by a man for his fiancée.

So which is the true origin of the word 'paella'?

The dish used to make paella today is certainly called a 'paella' (though there is a retronym for the dish now, 'paellera', as 'paella' has become so associated with the meal). This lends weight to theory 1.

However, rice was indeed brought to Spain by the Moors, so it is possible that an Arabic word could be used. However, 'paella' is a long way from 'baqiyah'.

Theory 3 is clearly a joke.

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